Ruto should explore US partnership in the critical minerals value chains

By showcasing Kenya’s proven track record in the rare earth sector and its commitment to sustainable practices, the delegation can foster stronger partnerships.

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What you need to know:

In the pursuit of its net zero emissions goals, the United States, under the Joe Biden administration, took a significant step by enacting the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022.

The significance of this legislative push is multi-faceted. Firstly, it accelerates America’s investment in cleaner energy, aligning with the broader global decarbonisation agenda.

Secondly, from a geopolitical standpoint, it reshapes the narrative surrounding China’s dominant position in the global critical minerals market. According to the US Defense Department, these critical minerals include cobalt, nickel, copper, and approximately two dozen other metals. The potential shift in control from China, which has maintained a stronghold over the global commodities market for such minerals over the past two decades, could usher in a much-needed change in power dynamics around this sector.

Where does this leave countries in Africa which are well endowed with these minerals more than anywhere in the world?

Sub-Saharan Africa emerges as a key player in global critical mineral production, wielding considerable influence. Despite its small mining sector, Kenya shines with its vast potential as a leading rare earth minerals producer, fuelled by the discovery of niobium deposits valued at $62.4 billion.

This positions the deposit among the top five rare earth deposits globally and marks the largest mineral discovery in Kenya to date. The Mrima Hill find is poised to elevate Kenya to a prominent position among the world’s rare earth producers.

As President William Ruto enters the most crucial leg of the state visit to the United States, I hope the discussion surrounding critical minerals will be given top priority.

Kenya has established itself as a formidable player in the rare earths sector, exemplified by Base Titanium’s decade-long mining operation in Kwale, which has contributed significantly to the Kenyan economy.

Partnering with the US on the development of critical mineral value chains from mining and production to downstream and value addition will not only diversify and accelerate Kenya’s economic growth but can also assure all Kenyans that these investments will be carried out to the highest environmental, social, and governance standards.

Coupled with its status as a burgeoning service and financial hub, Kenya possesses the potential to spearhead advancements in critical mineral production within Africa and beyond.

Though obvious, it is imperative that these achievements and capabilities be highlighted to the American counterparts during the delegation’s visit to Washington. By showcasing Kenya’s proven track record in the rare earth sector and its commitment to sustainable practices, the delegation can foster stronger partnerships and pave the way for mutually beneficial collaborations in the critical minerals industry with an impact that is felt beyond Kenya.

The writer is a public affairs expert. [email protected]

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